Hapa Life: A Father’s Perspective

I’m not hapa. I’m all Japanese. My children are Jewpanese. Our perspectives of the world will be different as time goes on. According to one study, mixed-race children of Asian and White descent will tend to identify as White about 60% of the time, as opposed to mixed-race child of Black and White descent, who tend to identify more often as Black than White. I wonder how my kids will lean as they grow older.

Regardless, they are a major subject of my writing. Their experience is important to me. The trick here is what am I writing about? What is the Jewpanese experience and what will that mean to them and what does it mean to me? It’s tempting to say the Jewpanese experience is only Maya’s and Sam’s, but it isn’t. It began for Becky and I when we became serious about each other and is expressed in our shared life and experience, how we negotiate our evermore intertwining cultural experiences. These are two different experiences. We, Becky and I, cannot determine what our children will keep of their two cultural traditions, nor can we determine what they will hybridize. But, neither Maya nor Sam can trump what Becky and I want to include from our personal cultural experiences into our marriage and family life. In other words, all four of us are interactive observers, participants who are engaged but without full control.

Which brings me to my poems. I write about Maya and Sam a lot. I write about their cultural experiences a lot. Right now, that’s easy. We, their parents, have a lot of control right now. But the day will come when the kids will take a great hand in guiding their own experiences. I wonder how I will handle that? But more importantly, I wonder what the shape of things Jewpanese to come will take.

It would appear strange, I’m sure, to our ancestors to see little Asian kids taking such joy in lighting Hanukkah candles, or little Jewish kids enjoying ozoni on New Year’s. Maybe in the years to come, these things will disappear. Or maybe they will last yet another generation. But that’s not for me decide, and that’s a good thing.

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